15 Years of Rosov Consulting – Our Journey Together
by Wendy Rosov, Founder and Principal
As Rosov Consulting celebrates our 15th anniversary throughout the year, I’m taking a moment to reflect on my personal and professional journey, the growth of the firm, and the state of the Jewish community and related research and evaluation today.
I classify myself as having a “substantial” Jewish education background—I am the product of 12 years of Jewish day school and 7+ years of Jewish summer camp. Those experiences left a mark on me; so much so that, after a 10+ year hiatus from everything Jewish after those immersive experiences, it was back to school and camp I went. Literally.
Once on “the other side”—serving as a day school teacher and a camp leader—I became more and more curious and inquisitive about the educational pedagogies, philosophies, and processes supporting or undergirding those places and spaces. I also wanted to learn more about the relationships between engager and engaged, teacher and student, learner and practitioner. This led me to pursue a graduate degree in education with a special emphasis on Jewish education. And, voila, a Jewish education and engagement researcher was born.
After 10 years at the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA), I decided to strike out on my own, inspired to build greater trust and communication between the funders, program organizers, and practitioners of Jewish education and engagement efforts. I believed that those two vital groups of people could more effectively achieve shared goals if they more closely worked together around questions of what constitutes success, what metrics matter, and how to leverage meaningful data and insights. And again, voila, Rosov Consulting was born.
In that moment, during the summer of 2008, I could never have imagined where I, we, would be today— celebrating 15 years, 200 client-partners and over 500 projects later. Reflecting on our journey from then until now surfaces some important learnings of Jewish communal life today.
First, and this is not a novel reflection, Jewish communities are resilient and are evolving. Because of the work we do to conceptualize and measure the outcomes and impacts of most of the Jewish education and engagement “GDP” (in North America and increasingly in other communities around the world), we have a front-row seat to the ever expanding and ever evolving expressions of Jewish identity, Jewish life, and Jewish commitments. Communities of culture, of color, and of common cause (not just to things Jewish but to things driven by Jewish values) now dominate the consumer landscape as evidenced by the Pew Portrait and countless other studies released over the past few years.
Second, there is more and more risk capital. With the intergenerational transmission of wealth and the staggering number of young entrepreneurs entering philanthropy, we see more creativity, more strategy, more energy, and more envelope-pushing than perhaps at any other time.
Third, these trends in the philanthropic space are mirrored in the nonprofit/NGO space. Whether legacy institutions are reinventing themselves or new organizations are bursting onto the scene with increasing frequency, it feels to us, these days, that the future is bright and there is so much more to learn.
Fourth, when I think about the field of Jewish education and engagement and the actors in that space driving progress, I’d daresay that those of us whose job it is to evaluate, research, gather evidence, develop systematic data, and the like have made a real contribution to creating a stronger field. We are the engines that drive our collective ways of knowing, of learning, and of feeding information back into the system to improve practice. And a part of me would like to think that, over the last 15 years, we’ve helped build the field; and that our efforts have positively, significantly, influenced Jewish life for countless people.
Where do researchers in our field go from here? I think the Jewish communal enterprise, such that it is, benefits when we look at and study what we’re doing and the context in which we’re doing it, within a framework of broader communal, societal, and global trends. Anything that we can read that allows us to get up on the balcony, have a broader perspective on and context for thinking about the work, is valuable. Boomers living long, active lives; families with four or five generations alive concurrently; effects of the pandemic on the social-emotional development of children and young people; increasing political polarization…. You name it. Those of us whose job it is to bring meaningful data to bear on metrics and questions that matter must bring insights and perspective derived from using a wide-angle lens even as we focus in on the specific matters that our client-partners bring to us to investigate.
Finally, I want to offer some words of gratitude. When I started Rosov Consulting 15 years ago, I named it such because, frankly, all I had to trade on was my name and the modest reputation I had built over the prior decade. But Rosov Consulting is so much more than me. I am deeply grateful for my teammates at Rosov Consulting (past and present) who have supported and helped advance my vision of the role that a strong research and evaluation entity could play in our sector and to our client-partners who have placed their trust in us. These relationships are priceless, and they are the wind in my sails every day.